Stuttering is a speech disorder where the flow or fluency of speech is interrupted.
The types of interruptions that characterise stuttering include:
- repeating sounds (b…b…but), syllables (win…win…window), words (what…what…what), or phrases (then I…then I…then I). There may be one repetition (m…my) or many repetitions (m…m…m…m…my).
- prolonging or ‘stretching out’ sounds (for example mmmmonkey).
- getting ‘stuck’ where the child is trying to speak but no sound is coming out.
Stuttering may also include nonverbal behaviours such as body movements, grimacing, or pauses.
A stutter may be mild (where the flow of speech is only slightly interrupted), or more severe (where the flow of speech is significantly interrupted). The severity may change over time.
The exact cause of stuttering is unknown. Research suggests that stuttering is most likely due to processing differences in areas of the brain that support speech production. It is not caused by stress or anxiety, people or events.
Natural recovery from stuttering occurs for some children. We can’t predict at present which children will recover from stuttering without treatment. Adolescents and adults are unlikely to experience natural recovery.
What you can do to help
It is recommended that you contact a speech pathologist if you have concerns that your child is stuttering.
When communicating with a child who stutters, wait patiently and give the child the time that they need to get their message across.
When a child should see a speech pathologist
Speech pathologists are the only professionals who are trained to treat stuttering. Contact a speech pathologist if you are concerned that your child is stuttering.
For young children, a speech pathologist may recommend monitoring the stutter for a while, or to start treatment. This may depend on how long the child has been stuttering, and the impact the stutter is having on the child’s ability to communicate and participate. The Lidcombe Program has the strongest research evidence for young children who stutter.
For school-aged children, adolescents, and adults, it is recommended that you contact a speech pathologist as early as possible if you are concerned.
Visit these websites for more information about stuttering: